It’s amazing to me how, despite this being our third kid, I don’t know anything about taking care of a newborn. Each night for the past couple weeks, I’ve been spending evenings face to face with a well fed, well swaddled, rosy cheeked little angel who won’t go the fuck to sleep. I look at her; she looks at me. Neither of us knows how to stop her fussing. We’re both motivated, don’t get me wrong. We both want this sleep thing to happen; we’re just helpless. At least she has an excuse. She can’t even control her limbs, let alone her sleep habits.
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to avoid the old standby of the pacifier. I’ll give it the occasional longing glance during these frustrating nights, but I know it’ll be all for the best if I leave it lying on the nightstand. And, of course, I can’t get a burp out of this baby. So, as far as I know she doesn’t have gas, but I’m never quit sure. At a certain point, though, you have to stop smacking your baby as you tiptoe up towards that line between burping and beating.
So each night, I had been taking this happy little baby, swaddling her up, and attempting to lay her in her crib only to have her start fussing the moment her body touches mattress. I’ll pick her up and she instantly settles. I relax and gingerly set her back down.
Rinse and repeat. So right, I don’t know what I’m doing. But then just two days ago (our baby is almost a month old), I remember the magic trick to baby raising: the Shush and Pat. Baby’s are none too bright, you see, and so they can’t process three things at once. Send in two inputs simultaneously (e.g., a shush and a pat) and their circuits lock up, clearing their mind of whatever bothers them. Instantly, the crying stops; it’s truly magic.
So Sunday I finally remembered this trick. That night we had the baby in our room for some reason or the other, sleeping in the little rocking basinet we have. So I gave her a rock and a shush and down she went. Magic. Worked both times I had to get her to sleep.
Last night, however, we moved her back to her crib. Her crib that’s in the room with the two lunatics. You know what? It’s a lot easier putting her down in that room when Rocky’s already sleeping.
Putting Down Baby: A Play in Way Too Many Parts
I walk into the kids’ room, a happy dozing baby in my arms, just off the breast and tightly swaddled. Her face is relaxed and serene as I step lightly across the hardwood floor. A constellation nightlight shines with a blue light, casting stars across the ceiling, and our wind-powered sound machine pumps out white noise from across the room. From the corner of my eye, I see a diminutive form stir within the shadows.
“BABY VERONICA GOING TO BED?”
“Shhhh, yeah, buddy,” I whisper as Rocky looks at me, head cocked to one side. “And we have to be so quiet so she can sleep.”
“OKAY DADDY. I NEED A HUG AND KISS.”
“Sure, buddy,” I say, easing her down and cross the room to his bed. I give him one more hug and a kiss before heading to the door. Lucy is already asleep at this point. “And remember, so quiet.”
Rocky drops back onto his bed and I head downstairs to listen in on the monitor. Silent. No crying baby. But then slowly it begins. First a little fussing, then a quickening of the breath. Then a bit louder and the sound of struggle as baby V fights again her swaddle like a cat trapped in a bag. Or, like any 18 month old I’ve ever tried to carry away from the park. Quickly I head back upstairs, but this time I know what to do. I’ve got my shusher and my patter all ready to go.
I open the door and again the shadows shift as, once again, a tiny figure sits upright. I pretend not to see Rocky shift around and pick up the little bundle from her crib, throwing her over a shoulder.
“SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I say, my shush almost sounding angry over the sound of the white noise machine. I pat furiously as her cries begin to subside.
“DADDY, PUT BABY VERONICA DOWN”
I wave a hand frantically in the general direction of the little voice, all the while continuing my “SHHHHHHHHHHHHH”. My mouth begins to go dry, my throat hoarse.
“DADDY, PUT VERONICA IN THE CRIB!”
“Rocky, you need to be quiet,” I say, breaking from my shush. I feel the baby twisting in my arms and look down in despair as her face begins to contort in discomfort. Jesus Christ, come on guys. “Rocky, just lay down and go to sleep. I’m trying to put Veronica down.” He flops back down on his bed.
“SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I’m back on it and again the cries stop. I can feel the tension going out of her –
“DADDY, I WANT TO HOLD VERONICA.”
“Not now, buddy,” I whisper.
“I WANNA HOLD VERONICA,” he whines, edging towards tears.
“Tomorrow morning, I promise. It’s bed time. She’s tired.” I’m fucking tired.
This goes on.
Until finally Rocky ended up worn out and Veronica made it down for the night (well, for a few hours anyway). But do you know what this made me realize? All those books suggesting tips, tricks, and schedules for babies?
They are little more than cute suggestions once you throw an extra kid into the mix.